NYCHA’s luxury development leasing plan irks pols and housing advocates

June 12, 2013 09:00AM

New York City’s plan to lease public land to private developers to build luxury housing has drawn the ire of politicians, neighborhood residents and housing advocates, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The New York City Housing Authority is looking to raise up to $50 million in annual revenue by allowing developers to take 99-year leases on eight developments and build at least 4,300 new apartments. Residents from seven of the developments have retained legal counsel from the Urban Justice Center and the Legal Aid Society, though none of these residents have yet filed lawsuits.

“It’s about running the clock out on the mayor,” Denise Miranda, an attorney with the Urban Justice Center, told the Journal. “Clearly the other Democratic mayoral candidates have made it clear they don’t agree with this.”

Ilene Popkin, a senior fellow at the Citizens Housing Planning Council in New York and a former senior executive at NYCHA, told the Journal that public housing residents have always been fearful about developers setting the agenda at these sites, but she acknowledged the plan made sense to generate funds.

“I went to a lot of tenant meetings,” Popkin said. “There was a real fear that public housing is a special treasure in the city, and once you start down this road, the next step is going to be worse.”

Money generated under the arrangement, NYCHA has said previously, would go toward much-needed repairs on public housing stock. The city reiterated its commitment to the plan in a statement to the Journal, saying that it would ensure public housing remains a viable option for low-income New Yorkers.

“Since announcing this plan in the Fall 2012, we’ve been closely engaged with residents, community leaders and elected officials,” NYCHA spokesperson Sheila Stainback said in the statement. “We look forward to continuing that outreach.” [WSJ]Hiten Samtani